Life is not a movie…no matter how much we want it to be

I can count on one finger how many times I have ever read the New Yorker. I’m not ashamed to admit that to me at least, because the attending baggage of being a New Yorker reader is much larger than the content.

Rally for Marriage Equality

Rally for Marriage Equality (Photo credit: vpickering)

For whatever reason today, one of my news aggregators popped up with this opinion piece from The New Yorker.

The article talks about the relative tranquility and unremarkable atmosphere in the recent US Supreme Court hearings about the Defense of Marriage Act & California’s Proposition 8.

Life is not a Hollywood film, and yet, we, particularly in the media and in the public try to organise real world events in that matter.

It’s understandable, because one of our greatest teachers growing up is the entertainment industry.

Take a look at your average long-feature news report, much like a bit from a reality show, it will have music that will steer you emotionally one way or another. (This is nothing radical, Dateline NBC did a feature about this, and even poked fun at itself. For further reference, read this report from UCLA & Carelton University)

Still, that’s the great thing about the US judicial system: it asks people to take away the emotionality and make a judgement on the facts.

This is why the rather subdued environment in the Supreme Court is remarkable. The facts are that DOMA is unconstitutional.

It’s also why I wonder what will happen to the activist machinery that has been set up around the marriage equality debate.

It’s time to think beyond marriage, beyond the happy endings.

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And after marriage…?

Let me just get the following statement done and dusted:

I believe that the right to marry and the benefits that come with it should not be prohibited on the basis of sexual orientation.

The US Supreme Court is currently hearing two cases that could potentially legalise same-sex marriage in the United States. One of which would look at the legality of California’s Proposition 8, which overturned the California’s same sex marriage legislation. The other one, which is the big one on a national level, is looking at the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents federal benefits being sent to same sex partners, as well states that the federal government will not recognise same sex marriages and says that US states are not federally required to recognise a same-sex marriage performed in another.

What concerns me most about the tone of the same sex marriage debate is how little of it (particularly in gay media) is concerned with life after marriage equality.

Why aren’t we talking about gay divorce? Because it’s not legal?

Why don’t we talk about the ins and outs and hard, and yes boring work of relationships and the fact that not all of them will end well.

Actors Mike White & Justin Long appeared in this particular ad when Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California. It’s “realness” was breath-taking:

I think that was a brilliant ad, because that is what the reality of married coupled life is. It’s not fabulous, it just is.

I would like to hear more stories about how boring and mundane married life is in addition to how fulfilling it can be. (Indeed, research has shown that there are health benefits in being married.)

Without a doubt, I see myself being married as opposed to just being de facto*, and I don’t look down upon those who opt not to do either. If you’re not a relationship person, then don’t get in one, and vice versa.

But in reading and observing the gay media and gay-oriented social media conversation, the marriage equality conversation, I believe, obscures another debate that the gay community in particular seems a bit scared to have, which is where does gay culture go afterwards?

There are some who feel that we, as gay men, will lose our “specialness” by being forced into the same monogamous relationships as heterosexuals, and that “gay culture” will end.

Personally, I think gay culture will shed any residual Peter Pan complexes as a result, and that is a good thing. (It’s equally ludicrous to think of the heterosexual community as this being monolithic bastion of monogamy.)

But part of that growing up process means thinking about relationships that don’t go smooth and things that aren’t romantic:

It means addressing issues like the suicide rate amongst the LGBT-identified, providing safe spaces for LGBT-identified homeless, HIV/AIDS education, bringing LGBT identified seniors into the greater LGBT conversation, getting rid of social homophobia in media and in day-to-day life.

Same sex marriage may go some ways towards working to resolve this issues, BUT the absence of same sex marriage DOES NOT PROHIBIT US from working on them now.

Rather than reading yet another post or article about  how “everyone should have the right to marry, because it’s the right thing…” I’d rather read about how steps are being done to get rid of homophobic language in film.

I’d rather be doing my bit, not by agitating for marriage, but by helping create a better life for all, and marriage equality might be the remaining legal barrier, but there’s a lot of societal work to do, and we are all up to the task.

We owe it to ourselves and more importantly, to those who will come after us.

*In Australia, there is legislation providing for “de facto” partnerships, which confers many of the rights, benefits, and responsiblities of marriage in any long-term relationship, regardless of sexual orientation. The closest thing the US has to it–and legal recognition differs wildly by juristiction–is common-law marriage.  Where it differs from civil unions is that there is no need to publicly make a declaration of your relationship.

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